25 Feb 2011

Pike Place Market

One of many entrances to the public market
What would a trip to Seattle be without visiting "the soul of Seattle"?  The Market turned 100 in 2007 and is today visited by 10 million people a year.  Though it began as a place that farmers could sell vegetables directly to the consumer, thereby eliminating the middle man and keeping prices affordable, now there are around 300 farmers, fishermen and craftspeople selling their wares in and around the market (not to mention over 200 musicians and street performers!).

When thinking about what I like best about this bustling marketplace, the first thing that comes to mind is coffee.  I mean, it is Seattle after all, right?  Seattle Coffee Works served me the best espresso that I have ever had; and I have had a lot of espresso.  Though it isn't located directly inside the Market, it is right across the street, which is better in a way, as it also gives a small reprieve from the large crowds inside the Market.  The staff are all very friendly and knowledgeable, both about the coffee they are serving and about Seattle in general.  Next time you are in Seattle, you can't miss out on this amazing treat!

Sign above the main entrance to Pike Place Market
A stroll down Post Alley, under the Market will bring you to the Market Theater.  This is where you will find the famed "Gum Wall".  I had heard that it was started by people, who, tired of waiting in line for the theater, would entertain themselves by sticking coins to the wall, using gum as the adhesive.  The coins eventually disappeared, leaving behind the chewed gum.  After several attempts at cleaning the wall, the theatre finally gave in and it became a tourist attraction.  Though one would be able to argue that a wall covered in gum cannot be considered an "attraction", it does look quite fun.

The Corner Market Building
If you are around the Market during lunch time, I would recommend the El Puerco Lloron, towards the waterfront from the Market on the Pike Street Hillclimb.  Every time I find myself in Seattle, I stop in for the Rellenos de Queso.  They have a wonderful selection of salsas and excellent guacamole.

Pike Place Market stretches itself over 9 acres of land and includes several buildings, along with street vendors.  You can find almost everything your heart desires, from fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, clothes, toys, books, flowers and chowders to great views and excellent people watching.

24 Feb 2011

The Pantheon

The Pantheon in the light of the setting sun
The Pantheon in Rome Italy is probably my favorite building in the world.  Every time I see it, I am overcome with inspiration; even if it is the fifth time in the same day!  Construction of this stunning example of classical architecture began around 25 AD.  However after a fire around 80 AD, it was rebuilt under Hadrian and completed somewhere around 125 AD.  Originally built as a Pagan temple to the gods (the word pantheon meaning "every god"), it has stood as a Catholic church since 608 AD

The main part of the building, the Rotonda, stands exactly as wide as it is high, 43.3 metres.  The domed roof is the largest dome ever created out of concrete.  The pronaos (or porch) is lined by sixteen columns made of Egyptian granite.  The only source of natural light is the large oculus at the top of the dome, which is 9 metres in diameter and completely open; which means when it rains outside, it also rains inside the Pantheon.  Originally, the interior of the Pantheon was designed so the light entering through the oculus would illuminate specific monuments to the gods at specific times of day.

Sunlight streaming in through the oculus.
The Pantheon sits at the head of the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome.  In the centre of the piazza stands a fountain, Fontana del Pantheon, whose basin was designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1575.  An obelisk was added to the fountain in 1711.

Today the Pantheon houses several tombs, including that of King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I, Margherita di Savoia and painter Raphael.  The inscription on Raphael's tomb is translated to read "Here lies Raphael: that Nature feared when alive, whilst he was dying, Nature fears herself may die".

If you are planning a trip to Rome and would like to stay close to this amazing structure, I would highly recommend the Hotel Abruzzi.  The hotel sits along the piazza and has rooms with beautiful views of the Pantheon.  It is a great central location to explore the many, many treasures this wonderful city has to offer.

23 Feb 2011

Tower of London

Staircase in the Tower of London, 2009
Tower of London
Some fun facts about the Tower
  • The Tower of London was started in the 1080's by William the conqueror, beginning with the White Tower
  • The Tower of London is actually comprised of several different towers
  • The first person known to be imprisoned in the Tower was Ranulf Flambard
  • Anne Boleyn was beheaded at Tower Green
  • Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the Tower
  • The nightly locking of the Tower begins at exactly 9:53pm every night and is marked by the Ceremony of the Keys.
  • Legend dictates that should the ravens who reside at the Tower ever leave, the White Tower will crumble and a terrible disaster shall befall England.
  • When Sir Henry Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower, a cat used to visit him, bringing dead pigeons for him to eat.

Window on one of the towers of the Tower of London